Washington is promoting a statement on the future of the Internet, which includes a set of democratic principles in an initiative that is expected to receive support from the EU and other Western allies.
The Biden administration was due to launch the initiative at the Democracy Summit last December, but recently found political impetus in the face of Russia’s threat to disconnect from the Internet.
“We call for a new statement for the future of the Internet that includes all partners who actively support a future for the Internet that is open, free, global, interoperable, reliable and secure.”says the draft statement seen by EURACTIV.
The statement will be released on April 28 at a hybrid ministerial meeting organized by the White House National Security Council.
The EU, the United Kingdom, Japan, Canada and South Korea are the first signatories, and according to an EU diplomatic source, there is talk of Ukraine’s signing and President Volodymyr Zelensky’s involvement in the announcement.
The initiative was initially called “alliance”but this wording was removed because it was considered too close to military terminology.
Mentions of China and Russia have also been deleted, although alluded to throughout the text.
European diplomats discussed the proposal on Tuesday, April 19, but Hungary blocked it because of its opposition to gender references and free data flow. However, these references have not been removed.
The statement is in line with a similar statement on digital rights and principles in the digital age proposed by the European Commission in January.
A betrayed promise
The statement wants to claim “The Promise of the Internet”conceived as an ecosystem of innovation and a possibility of access to customers for companies, a space to reach the public for content creators and unlimited access to knowledge for all.
It highlights a number of threats that have arisen over the past two decades. These include increasing repression of free speech, the rise of state-sponsored cybercriminals and misinformation propagators, the establishment of firewalls, and other technical measures such as shutting down the Internet to restrict access to information.
Various references to the need to maintain Internet governance as a multi-stakeholder process and prevent the fragmentation of the Internet, also known as “splinternet”appear in the text.
According to an informed source, the Americans intend to create a united Western front against the pressure exerted by China and Russia on the United Nations Agency for Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and the Union. International Telecommunication Agency (ITU) to create a more national Internet under stricter state control.
In addition, the rise of large platforms is seen as a cause for concern, both for the high concentration of the internet economy and for the “legitimate concerns” related to the amount of personal data collected online.
Online platforms are seen as conduits for the dissemination of illegal or harmful content that can lead to radicalization and violence in the real world. They are also seen as vectors of misinformation that create divisions in society and undermine democratic institutions and human rights.
“The parts of this statement are intended to maintain a number of key principles, which are set out below, with respect to the Internet and digital technologies.”specifies the project.
These principles emphasize respect for human rights, the rule of law, legitimate purpose, non-arbitrariness, effective oversight, and online and offline transparency. A reference to the government’s legal access to personal data was deleted from a previous draft.
This includes promoting a safe Internet for all, without discrimination based on race, ethnicity, political beliefs, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Online security must be ensured by combating violence, including gender-based attacks and the sexual exploitation of children.
Another point mentions the reduction of illegal and harmful content while respecting pluralism and freedom of expression. Signatories must do the same “Refrain from blocking or degrading access to legitimate content, services and applications on the Internet, in accordance with the principles of net neutrality. »
The principle of net neutrality is especially threatened by the Internet vision of Russia and China. The declaration also prohibits government-imposed Internet shutdowns or degradation of national Internet access.
The statement also condemned “misuse of the Internet or algorithmic tools or techniques for the purposes of illegal surveillance, oppression and repression that are incompatible with international human rights principles, including the development of social control panels or other control mechanisms national social security or pre-crime detention and detention. ”
In addition, signatories pledge to collaborate in research and standard-setting, share information on common security threats, work together to combat cybercrime, and refrain from using the Internet to interfere with electoral processes. or politicians.
The principles highlight the importance of privacy and personal data, the potential for free flow of data based on shared values, and the need to protect consumers from online scams, unsafe products, and unfair business practices.
The signatories are committed to promoting inclusive Internet access, promoting digital literacy and online pluralism. It also mentions the need to ensure reliable infrastructure, promote trade and combat climate change.